Saturday, September 4, 2010

A very quick comment on the New Zealand earthquake

Naturally, one feels for the people of New Zealand, particularly of Christ Church but one also feels amazed respect for the way the Kiwis (they call themselves that so it is not an insult but a term of endearment) have simply picked themselves up and got on with restoring their lives. Here is one article but there are many more.

This was a particularly strong earthquake at 7.1 but these events are not unknown in the country.
"Although the country lies on a highly-charged seismic fault and experiences over 14,000 earthquakes a year, only around 20 have a magnitude in excess of 5.0." That is still quite a high magnitude, yet most of us have never realized this. Furthermore, there has not been a fatality for many years.

Compare and contrast with the sort of mass human tragedy that any earthquake, flood or hurricane creates in developing countries. Admittedly, New Zealand is sparsely populated and few earthquakes are around cities as this one was. But hurricanes happen all the time in the United States and, though we know about them, with the exception of Katrina when it hit New Orleans, evacuation is swift as is restoration.

In other words, let me come out with a truism: instead of wasting our time (I use the word "our" in its widest sense) passing endless regulations whose aim it is to prevent natural disasters, something we cannot do, we should be concentrating on ideas that would make it possible for more countries or, one day, all countries to cope with them. The way developed countries do it now.

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